Rep. Tulsi Gabbard starts off 2020 campaign apologizing for past LGBTQ remarks

Christal Hayes

WASHINGTON – Less than a week into her campaign for president, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard issued a lengthy apology for her past comments and actions against the LGBTQ community. 

Since Gabbard, a 37-year-old Iraq veteran, announced on CNN last Friday she was joining what's expected to be a crowded Democratic field for president in 2020, her past comments and actions have been under a microscope, including her work for an anti-gay organization and remarks calling LGBTQ activists "homosexual extremists." 

"In my past, I said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, they were very hurtful to the people in the LGBTQ community and to their loved ones," Gabbard said.

She added that her views had changed significantly since that time and credited that to her time overseas in Iraq. She explained that she grew up in a conservative household and was raised to believe that marriage was between a man and woman. But, over the years, Gabbard said she "formed her own opinions." 

"I know that LGBTQ people still struggle. They're still facing discrimination, still facing abuse and still fear that hard-won rights are going to be taken away by people who hold views like I used to," she said. "That cannot happen." 

Gabbard previously apologized for her remarks on LGBTQ equality when she ran for Congress in 2012 but given her presidential aspirations, new revelations from her past surfaced, leading to a four-minute video apology Gabbard posted on her Twitter page. 

More: Democrat Tulsi Gabbard announces 2020 run for president to take on Trump

In a story about her past, mostly in the early 2000s, CNN reported that Gabbard advocated that "as Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists," she said in 2004 while serving as a Hawaii state legislator. 

Gabbard also did work for an anti-gay organization that considered homosexuality "unhealthy, abnormal behavior that should not be promoted or accepted in society," according to CNN. 

The news report noted the organization, the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, promoted conversation therapy, which aims to alter a person's sexual identity through therapy by treating it as a mental illness. The practice is banned in 15 states, including Hawaii. 

CNN reported that Gabbard was quoted in a news release from 2000 about LGBTQ activists who protested against her mother, Carol Gabbard, running for the state's Board of Education. 

"This war of deception and hatred against my mom is being waged by homosexual activists because they know, that if elected, she will not allow them to force their values down the throats of the children in our schools," Tulsi Gabbard was quoted as saying. 

CNN's report also delved into her father's work as one of the state's leading advocates against same-sex marriage

Since the early 2000s, Gabbard's views on the LGBTQ community have changed. She's backed pro-gay legislation and was given a 100 by the Human Rights Campaign. Gabbard also serves on the Congressional LGBT Caucus.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard starts off 2020 campaign apologizing for past LGBTQ remarks